By Ingrid Ødegaard, co-founder & Chief Product and Technology Officer at Whereby
As the UK enters a third national lockdown, it’s important we learn from the lessons of last year. Most people I’ve spoken to have enjoyed the freedom of remote working and are keen to retain some of their newly discovered flexibility in the future. In many ways, it does seem the workplace has irrevocably changed for the better.
With working from home set to be the norm, it’s crucial that we solve the issues of employees feeling fatigued after days of back-to-back video calls and missing the social interaction of the office. Things don’t have to be this way. With some small adjustments, we can take the stress out of working from home and instead use the technology to improve the way we work.
Use various communication methods
One of the things teams not used to remote working struggle with is combining different types of communication. Being in meetings all day is tiring – even when they happen in person. Everyone working from home means everyone has more uninterrupted time to focus and produce better quality results. Often, work can be shared for others to review, comment and make a decision on without a meeting. Successful remote working organisations are deliberate in their use of meetings, arranging them when everyone has enough information to create a meaningful discussion. It’s important to consider whether meetings are absolutely necessary.
Another challenge, particularly for those working in small, close-knit teams, is being unable to quickly ask questions or stop by a colleague’s desk to get an informal opinion on an issue. Sending a meeting calendar invite can feel overly formal and exaggerated. Usually, it makes more sense to actively use chat, or ask someone to briefly drop by your video room. With channel-based messaging platforms like Slack and the personal rooms available on Whereby, you can avoid the calendar entirely and internal communication flows more naturally.
Don’t skip the office socialising
People love working in small businesses because they love building great relationships within tight-knit teams. It’s really important to maintain this while working remotely. Just because you’re not in the same physical room as your colleagues doesn’t mean you can’t work together. At Whereby, we have a ‘Friday Friyay’ 30 minute social hangout each week where we talk about non-work related topics like “the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten” to end the week on a fun note. Our support team meets once a month in their group room for a ‘Power Hour.’ Here, they can raise queries together and use audio integration to listen to the same playlist they put together collectively – giving the sense of sitting in the same office. Planning time for socials goes a long way to maintaining the close relationships you find within small teams.
Look after yourself
This is super important – make sure to plan time away from video calls into your daily routine. Quick breaks between meetings like getting a hot drink, stretching or exercising all help to pause and refresh, giving space to shift between the professional and the personal. Not only will daily tasks become more manageable but your focus and productivity will improve as a result.
If you know the person you’re meeting well, you could take the call outside while walking, for example. I sometimes take calls outside through mobile so if needed I can always turn on my camera. It’s also a fun way to show where I am.
It’s essential everyone feels their work and personal life is balanced. One of the things people love about working is the additional time for family and friends. Physical exercise is also really important – I have started working with a personal trainer over Whereby once a week. Some of my colleagues like to work later but take two hour lunch breaks to exercise or go for a bike ride.
Don’t overload your schedule Moreover, when you’re on a video meeting, give it your undivided attention. Although cramming multiple tasks simultaneously might seem like you’re getting more done, doing so actually costs you in the long run – up to 40% of productive time, research shows. Close any tabs or applications which may tempt attention – your response to any emails or Slack messages received will be more considered and thorough when you are not on a video chat.